Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble signals return to near-normal for travel industry

In a development that marks the re-establishment of overseas travel links between countries, Hong Kong and Singapore have announced that they will lift quarantine requirements for visiting foreigners.

In a statement Singapore’s Transport Minister and Hong Kong’s Commerce Secretary said, the scheme would begin with one flight a day into each city, with a quota of 200 travellers per flight. This would be increased to two flights a day into each city from December 7.

This arrangement would come to a stop if the COVID-19 situation deteriorated in either city, they said while adding, this travel bubble, one of the first of its kind in the world, will enable both cities to open up their borders in a controlled manner while maintaining safety.

“While we may be starting small, this is an important step forward … It will be a useful reference for other countries and regions that have controlled the epidemic, and are contemplating opening their borders.”

Travelers from both cities will have to travel on designated flights and will have to undertake mandatory COVID-19 tests. There would be no quarantine restrictions as well as no restrictions on the purpose of travel.

For Hong Kong, which has banned non-residents since March, the deal marks its first resumption of travel ties with another city. Travelers from mainland China and Macau will continue to face a period of 14 days quarantine. However, eligible Hong Kong residents of Guangdong province and Macau will be exempt from these quarantine rules under a quota scheme starting from November 23, announced Hong Kong authorities on Wednesday.

Singapore already has pacts on essential business and official travel from Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, and China; it has also opened its doors for unilateral visits for general visitors from a handful of countries including Vietnam, Brunei, and New Zealand.

Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific would be the only carriers offering the initial designated travel bubble flights, said authorities.

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